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Does Omega-3 Supplementation Improve Heart Health?

Foods and supplements containing Omega 3 for heart health based on recommendations from Huntington Heart

It is well known that omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, are critical for the function of many of our cells around the body, including in the brain. The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids extend to the heart and are protective against stroke as well. While we know this to be the case, there is some debate as to whether Omega-3s consumed as part of a healthier diet are any better than simply supplementing with one of the myriad pills available today.

Omega-3s have shown several benefits including lowering bread pressure, reducing triglycerides in the blood, reducing the risk of heart arrhythmias, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke and lowering the risk of sudden cardiac death amongst other benefits.

Where are omega-3 fatty acids found?

The most common foods from which people get their Omega-3s are from fish. Typically, the oilier the fish, the more fatty acids it contains. Salmon, mackerel, and trout are all rich in Omega-3s. Not only that, but they are low in saturated fat, and offer a great deal of nutrition above and beyond fatty acids. Other fish, like swordfish and some tunas also contain Omega 3s but may also contain mercury. As a result, the benefit, especially for younger patients, is less clear.

Omega-3s are not only found in fish. There are also many oils, nuts and plants that contain this beneficial compound. While these ALAs are beneficial to the heart, they are not quite as potent as the EPA and DHA that you get from fish. You can get ALA Omega-3s from flaxseed, walnut, soybeans and chia seeds.

What about Omega-3 supplementation?

There is a great deal of debate over the benefit of omega-3 supplementation. For some, who simply are not able to consume enough omega-3 naturally, their doctor may suggest supplements. While likely not as potent or beneficial as getting omega-3s naturally from food, it can benefit a certain subset of patients. However, omega-3 supplements are typically not overseen by federal regulatory bodies and their purity and content can be questionable. On the other hand, obtaining your omega-3s from a proper diet is much more predictable.

It is important that you do not begin an omega-3 supplementation regimen without consulting your doctor. They will be able to offer information on the benefits and risks of supplementation, as well as monitor your ongoing results.

If you do not receive sufficient omega-3 from diet alone, please speak to you your doctor or nutritionist about how to improve your intake of this beneficial compound or how to start a supplementation regimen to ensure reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.